The first church on this site of Bern Minster probably was a small chapel built during the founding of Bern (1191). By the 15th century, Bern had expanded and become a major city-state north of the Alps. To celebrate their growing power and wealth, the construction of new church began in 1421.
During the first phase, Matthäus Ensinger, a foreman from Ulm, was in charge of the project. The construction took over 150 years, and generations of foremen, sculptors and stonemasons worked on the important monument. It was hard work and there were strict rules: the main goal of late Gothic architecture was to have a building of predetermined dimension and with as much light as possible. The craftsmen achieved an impressive space by connecting the entire inside space, using a special building technique and carefully proportioning the windows.
In the 16th century, the third stage of the build came to an end. The spire was only 50 metres high, so the Minster looked quite different among the houses of the Old City. Construction had to stop because the ground was not stable and there were some financial problems. Later on, the impressive spire was built in the Gothic style and reached its final height. Switzerland’s largest late medieval church was completed in 1893. It was made almost completely out of Bernese sandstone, with the exception of the top part of the spire.
The most famous feature of the Bernese Minster is the exceptional main portal. Erhart Küng, a sculptor and foreman from Westphalia, made the sandstone masterpiece that depicts the Last Judgement. There are 294 sculptures: prophets, angels with trumpets, Jesus Christ as Judge of the Nations, Lady Justice (added after the Reformation), martyrs and damned souls showed the believers what the day of the Last Judgement would look like.
You can visit the Minster to enjoy the unique ambiance inside the building, listen to the sound of the organs, attend a protestant service, look at the medieval architecture or enjoy the view from the platform at the top of the spire – the church and the spire of the Minster are open daily, year-round. Make sure you check the official opening hours.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.